From left, Lisa Wibroe, Mauna Eichner and Lee Fukui, founding members of Wrigley is Going Green, recently visited the site on Henderson Avenue where they hope to develop the Wrigley District’s community garden.
BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
It looks as if Long Beach’s Wrigley district will finally have its own community garden. Last week the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved the concept by formally asking the Long Beach Housing Development Company (LBHDC) to allow community activists to use HDC-owned property for the garden.
The council, upon 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews’s recommendation, asked LBHDC to lease two vacant lots at 1950 and 1960 Henderson Avenue to the Wrigley Is Going Green (WIGG) Association for use as a temporary community garden for a two-year term.
“This property has a lot of history (with) over 10 years of problems and many calls to police, until 2007, when we demolished the apartment buildings that were located on the property,” Andrews told the council. He added that residents in the area have been asking him to help persuade the city to allow them to use the land for a garden until the LBHDC is ready to develop the site. “The area is in need of something fresh and rewarding,” Andrews noted. “I do look forward to the affordable housing that is to be built at that location, (but) meanwhile, the property is not being utilized and we have a neighborhood organization, and neighbors that are stepping forward to beautify the neighborhood with a community garden.”
The council’s unanimous approval pleased several people in the vicinity of the planned garden. “I have lived behind the property for over 10 years and it brings me much joy to just have the thought of something as positive as a community garden at that property,” said long-time resident Annie Greenfeld. “I will even provide the water if it is needed.”
Greenfeld, who is also on the board of directors of the Wrigley Association, explained that each of the two now-vacant lots had had an apartment building and most of the tenants were drug dealers. “There were so many calls for service to the police, it was just awful,” she said. “I myself called the police many times to report criminal activity taking place there.”
The Long Beach Redevelopment Agency purchased the two properties several years ago with housing set-aside funds and turned the property over to LBHDC for the future development of affordable housing. The apartment buildings were demolished in 2007 during a media event that featured Andrews sitting at the controls of the bulldozer that brought the structures down.
Lisa Wibroe, one of WIGG’s founding members, said that she and many other residents of the Wrigley district are very excited about the council’s request to LBHDC. ”Wrigley is Going Green had received many requests, especially from young, new homeowners in Wrigley, for a community garden,” she said, adding that WIGG has been working closely with Andrews, the Wrigley Association, and the Neighborhood Advisory Group (NAG) to create a community garden in the area.
“We are delighted that we got a unanimous thumbs up from city council,” Wibro said. “Now we are hoping for a similar vote from the board of the LBHDC.”
She added that her only concern is that the Redevelopment Agency or LBHDC might be a little reticent to let a community group make use of a property for fear that the group might not be willing to give up the property when the time comes to build housing on it. “But we only want it for about two years,” she said. “We want to develop it to a point where it is running well and streamlined and the garden looks good.” She explained that WIGG wants to showcase the garden in order to get a permanent site in the future. “We will have something to show that proves we can do it. That’s our purpose,” she said. “We don’t want to keep this property forever.”
Wibro said WIGG has not yet decided who will be allowed to cultivate plants in the garden. “We might give preference to Wrigley residents first and then open it up to the general public later, but all that is not decided yet,” she said, adding that the specifics on how the garden will be managed will be determined after input is received from the community. “We will also continue working with Dee Andrews’s office, the Wrigley Association and the Neighborhood Advisory Group to make the garden the best that it can be,” she said.
Formed about two years ago, WIGG is a nonprofit organization made up of its three founders: Wibro, Mauna Eichner and Lee Fukui. They do the paperwork, organize events and recruit volunteers to plant trees and undertake other projects to improve the environment. For more information about WIGG or the Wrigley Community Garden, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Andrews’s office at (562) 570-6816.